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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Living Responsibly

by Dennis Pollock

The older I get, the more keenly I appreciate the importance of living responsibly. We all have responsibilities, tasks assigned to us by God and society. I suppose if we deliberately marooned ourselves on some deserted island, Robinson Crusoe style, we might escape nearly all responsibilities (save for the responsibility to survive), but that is a “luxury” none of us have. We live in communities which make demands on us, most of us marry and have families which place significant limitations and responsibilities on us, and of course we are the created beings of the Almighty, who has a lot to say about what He expects and desires of us.

We work at jobs which make all kinds of demands of us. We must show up for work at a certain time (save for those who work from their homes), we must satisfy our bosses, get along with our fellow employees, and if for some reason we lose our job or quit it, we must immediately seek other employment.

This is true for all of us, Christian or non-Christian. But those who follow Christ have the added incentive of God’s word encouraging us in these and all sorts of other, more spiritual responsibilities. We find in the Bible that, even in the days of Moses, men were given tasks and responsibilities. God gave Moses instructions related to those of the tribe of Levi, saying:

But the Levites must camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that the LORD’s anger will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the testimony.”

Each was Responsible…”

The upkeep and transportation of the tabernacle fell upon one and only one tribe of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was not for the men of Judah, or Ephraim, or Benjamin. It was the men of Levi who must be responsible for the tabernacle. Had they refused to do this, they would have come under severe judgment by the Lord. This was their task, and they were required to fulfill it.

In Solomon’s day, twelve leaders were given the responsibility of providing for the upkeep of the king and those he supported. The Bible tells us:

Solomon had twelve district governors apponted throughout Israel who acquired supplies for the king and his palace. Each was responsible for one month in the year. (1 Kings 4:7)

As these men saw that their assigned month was drawing near, they must begin arranging to have all the necessary goods prepared and ready for the king. Every other month of the year they could relax, but that month, the king was looking to them to provide all he required. And had they been totally unprepared and had nothing for the king, it would have been serious trouble for them.
We are, of course, a long way from Moses and Solomon’s day. But the basic idea of responsibility is just as meaningful for us as it was for them. We, too must be responsible, both to God and to people He has placed in our lives. The Bible tells all Christians: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7). Followers of Christ are not permitted to be rebellious, reckless, and clueless when it comes to living in their particular societies. They are commanded to pay their taxes, obey the laws of the land, and live quiet, decent, and peaceful lives. Zooming in more closely, they are to demonstrate this kind of responsible living in their families. Paul writes: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). And nearly all of us have some who qualify as “our own.” About the only way to escape this kind of responsibility is to stay single, wait until your parents die, and hope that you have no brothers or sisters, nephew or nieces. Live by yourself, for yourself, and on your own. But what kind of life would that be?

Choosing Responsibility

There are a million different ways in which the necessity of responsible living translates in our lives, some large and some small. But in the eyes of God every responsibility is significant. Indeed Jesus tells us that when we stand before God, we will be judged through the lens of responsibility, declaring that those who pass God’s test will be told: “His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord’ ” (Matthew 25:23). The idea of faithfulness has everything to do with responsible living. To be faithful is to be consistently responsible for one’s assigned tasks. To be faithful is to be responsible and to be responsible is to be faithful.

The opposite of being responsible is found in Jesus’ description of the unfaithful servant, who instead of investing the money entrusted him by his master, hid it in the ground for “safekeeping.” He refused to go out and make a profit with it. When called to give account of his entrustment, he dug up the money, and gave it back to his master. The master was not at all pleased. He called the man a “lazy and wicked servant,” and sent him into the “outer darkness.”
This speaks about what Christ expects of those who trust and follow Him. Within every one of us are placed certain gifts, made operative by the Holy Spirit. They are not given us to neglect, or to make us feel superior. We are given gifts in order that we might go out and use them for the glory of God and the good of others. Living responsibly means being faithful to exercise the gifts given us by God, regardless of whether those gifts are small in our eyes, or they are of a world class level. Every gift and any gift, large or small, must be put to work in the Master’s vineyard.

Overriding Personal Desires

Sometimes responsibility forces us to make decisions we would prefer not to make. When I was in my twenties I began pastoring a small church. I was teaching school at the time, and for a couple of years I continued both teaching and serving in the ministry. But as our tiny church grew a bit the time arrived when I could resign my teaching position and concentrate totally on ministry. That particular year I had been asked to teach junior high mathematics, and this was my first experience with young people of that age. Before then I had taught in the primary levels, working with students who still had a bit of awe and respect for their teachers. When I switched to junior high, I found no trace of that awe and respect. Some of the students were well-behaved, but some were unruly, hyper, and rebellious. It was not a good fit for me. To this day I admire junior high teachers who enjoy their jobs, and who can maintain discipline yet still be likeable and keep a good sense of humor.

Late in the first semester, knowing that I now had the option of being a full-time minister, I met with the school superintendent, and asked him if he could let me out of my contract at the mid-year point, so that I could serve my church full time. I don’t remember exactly what I told him, but he agreed to allow me to resign halfway through the year. He didn’t seem especially happy about the idea. Walking out of that office I was elated, but also a little troubled. Something didn’t feel quite right. I knew that I had signed a contract to teach the entire year, and that it would be a hardship for the school to replace me in such a short time. I could justify my actions by thoughts of how God’s interests and Christ’s church are more important than teaching algebra to a bunch of rowdy teenagers, but even so, I felt that sick feeling that I get when I am about to blow it.

I wrestled with my conscience for a day or two, but I knew this was not a match I was going to win. I got back with the superintendent and told him I would finish the year. I wish I could tell you that at that point the students settled down and behaved beautifully throughout that final semester. They didn’t. It was as bad as ever, but I knew that I was doing the right thing. I was living up to my responsibilities, which is something on which God puts a high premium.

People Responsibilities

As important as career and job responsibilities are, people responsibilities are infinitely greater. When a man and a woman stand in a church, or before a justice of the peace, and say “I do,” or “I will” they are taking on a huge responsibility. They are embracing that terrible “C” word: commitment. Up until that point they are free to jump in and out of romantic relationships, and have and dump many different boyfriends or girlfriends. If their sweetheart gets a little too demanding or controlling, no problem. There are always more fish in the sea.

But once the ring is placed on the finger and the marriage is consummated in the bedroom, there is no going back. At least, that is the way it is supposed to be. Someone once told me about an older couple who had their newly married daughter call home. The father picked up the phone, had a very brief conversation with his daughter, and then hung up. When his wife asked what their daughter had called about, she was told, “Our daughter says her new husband isn’t working out and she wants to come back home.” His wife was shocked, and asked her husband, “What did you tell her?” He calmly replied, “I told her: ‘You are home – deal with it!’”

Children are another major responsibility. When a little baby boy or girl enters our lives, and then another, and then perhaps another, we are called by God to provide all these children need, and to do all we can to help them get through their childhood unscathed and healthy in spirit, soul, and body. We can’t solve all their problems, but it is clearly our responsibility to do all we can. If we can’t heal them, we take them to the doctor. We wipe their messy bottoms when they are babies, and we endure their messy attitudes when they are teens. Whether they are grateful or grumpy, pleasant or whiny, we continually discharge our debt of love, protection, and provision to them.

Responsible to the One Who Made Us

Our greatest responsibility, however, is not to people, but to God. We are not our own, says the Scripture; we belong to God. And the very first act of responsibility toward God is to run to Jesus, and believe on Him for salvation. Jesus declares, “You must be born again.” The word “must” makes it compulsory. It is our responsibility; it is our job to believe on Jesus Christ, and to trust that His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead was for our forgiveness and justification. If we fail to do this, no amount of good works, no kind deeds, no charitable donations, and no amount of adopted African children will even begin to impress God. You must be born again. Again, the Scriptures tell us, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Here is the beginning of responsible living. Yes, it will involve good works and generous sharing with the poor, and helping the weak after we have believed on Christ. It will mean paying our taxes, showing up for work on time, enduring difficult spouses, being patient with rebellious teenage children, respecting bossy bosses, mowing our lawns and trimming our hedges, living within our means, paying our debts, giving generously to the work of Christ, getting up early when we prefer to sleep late, curbing our Internet surfing and TV watching in order to be more productive, and a whole lot more. But above all, responsible living means giving to God all that He demands. And His first and foremost command is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” And having believed, trust Jesus for the grace to fulfill the various responsibilities that are assigned to you, task by task, duty by duty, and day by day.

 

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